Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Joel Quenneville Not a Jack Adams Finalist

The Jack Adams finalists are out and our very own coach Q did not make the shortlist.

So the Capitals remarkable resurgence under Boudreau, the Habs meteoric rise to the top and the Red Wings pesky ability to keep winning the Presidents Trophy was all it took to put them above a coach who - amongst injuries mind you - had his team literally limp into the playoffs?


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Red Wings Take 3-0 Series Lead Against Avalanche

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Well that's the season folks. The only question remaining is whether the Avalanche will go out with a bang or a whimper.

For now, I'm going to go whimper into my pillow and will recap in the morning.

UPDATE: I whimpered too long and woke up late. So here's a few quick notes and hopefully I'll find time for a recap at lunch.

UPDATE 2: It looks like I won't get time today to do a full recap so following the notes below, I've put up my raw game notes, swearing and all.

Edited Notes
- Hlinka was out, Forsberg was in
- Forsberg was almost out again after the first period but gutted it out
- caught the first 10 minutes on French is non-existent these days
- once Dallas was over, I was treated to ol' Pierre McGuire
- Foote and Sauer were broken up with Foote-Leo and Salei-Sauer
- Sauer doesn't shift from backwards to forward quickly enough and that's why he tends to get victimized by forwards on the outside
- Hensick drew in and played a whale of a game
- David Jones was on fire but still couldn't finish
- Chelios had a brutal game
- Theodore is now 2-16 with 14 straight losses in the second round
- On Datsyuk's 2nd goal, he didn't deflect it or get a rebound...he actually knocked the puck out of the air before it got to Theodore and put it in

Raw Notes
forsberg, sakic, jones
hejduk, stastny, brunette
mcleod arnason hensick
mccormick, guite, laperriere

Hannan, Liles
foote, leopold
salei, sauer

Watching in French

Switch up at D with Foote and sauer broken up
Hensick draws in

Wings fly in fast!

Lappy crunches someone

Hensick gets one!
pnealty was coming, arnason hangs, hensick fires and mcleod tipes it in!

this is how I wanted them to come out!
osgood looking a bit shaky
tossing rebounds, not gobbling up close pucks
mccormick tossing his body around

detroit gets first powerplay
sauer and foote together for kill

oh joy, it's pierre
"all due respect to dallas, all due respect to pittsburgh, all due respect ot montreal" - STFU (1st Det goal)

datsyuk ties it on a nice play

Franzen gets em up by wide open behind Leopold

forsberg gone from bench midway through

Forsberg back
Stastny not coming back

Kronvall still hates Jones

Chelios getting picked apart

Sauer doesn't turn from back to front fast enough - hesitates like he's thinking about whether he should do it or not - or is just clumsy

Hensick playing great! Energizes crowd single-handedly

Datsyuk scores
I don't think Theodore ever stopped it. I think Datsyuk did and potted it.

McCarty penalty for holding - free hand
Bruno! Great pass from Hej and Liles blasts it to front and Bruno with awesome tip-in

energy line has good shift after goal
hensick lines comes out after
detroit ices it
forsberg, hejduk, sakic out right away with no word from Q
Forsberg tries his spin shot but it's blocked
Forsberg takes a penalty! Fuck! Just reckless. double-minor. pussy dive by Samuelson
Beauty PP goal

Forsberg sakic hejduk together since start

That is a brutal idiocy for calling Forsberg on goaltender interference
Even-up call on Zetterberg after

too many men on Colorado - yeesh
Wings then had too many but no call

Lappy with a break but hesitates too long

penalties on Forsberg - no good in the box!

Quenneville 3-10 all-time vs Red Wings
Theo 2-15, 13 straight losses in 2nd round

Osgood settling in now

Detroit too many m en
nothing for Avs PP
Detroit too many again
Need to capitalize on this mistake!
Bruno in front off Sakic, step and shot!

Forsberg demolishes Kronvall
Foote crunches Zetterberg out of crease

Definite hi-stick on Wings on Leopold
Franzen hauls Forsberg down but no penalty - didn't touch puck!

Hudler clangs iron

Theo out but can't gain zone

And...that's the season

Related Links Event Summary
Detroit exposes Avs fatal flaw
Where'd I put that shaving kit
Brutal officiating
On the Wings Recap
CBC Blog Recap

Playoff Gameday: Avalanche vs Red Wings - Game 3

UPDATE: Jib has had enough and wants to get everyone fired up and I must admit, the excessive use of profanity energized the shit out of me! Let's hope the whole team reads his blog so they can get riled up for this game too.

If you want to talk about must win siutations, tonight's game can be part of the dictionary entry. If the Avalanche lose today, it's season over.

Yes, people will quote the miracle of 3-0 comebacks but the odds would not be in the Avalanche's favor.

Hell, I wouldn't even call it odds. I would call it the likelihood of God being an Avalanche fan because it would take divine intervention to take 4 straight from the Wings at this point.

Smyth out?
To make matters worse, it is being reported that Ryan Smyth will miss this game. Maintenance day my ass, coach Q. If there's one thing I hate about the playoffs, it's the ridiculous injury updates.

Forsberg in?
Peter Forsberg skated in practice and is likely to play. But I'll believe it when I see him out for his first shift. Not even sitting on the bench at puck drop will convince me that he's in the lineup.

Hannan in?
Scott Hannan is probable as well but I won't believe it until I see him on the bench. I won't need him to actually take a shift to believe he's in the game. Lucky him, eh?

So what to do with all these injuries?

Well, if Hannan is out, Finger will stay in. If Hannan is in, Finger will likely swap out. The defence is the easy one to deal with. Though I'd like someone to remind Sauer and Foote that they need to wake up a bit.

If Forsberg and Smyth are out, Q again will need to draw on some reserve power. Cody McCormick and Jaroslav Hlinka will stay in even though both played less than stellar in their recent outings. He then has to decide from players such as Brad Richardson, Wyatt Smith and T.J. Hensick to fill Smyth's spot.

I'm not sure I'd trust Hensick in a crucial situation like this but there is something to be said for that rookie enthusiasm. I don't feel Wyatt Smith will bring anything to the tableand Brad Richardson has been in Q's doghouse all year.

I think the order in Q's head based on comments he's made so far and what we saw in the regular season is:
Wyatt Smith
T.J. Hensick
Brad Richardson

And I hope to God I'm wrong because I don't want to see Wyatt Smith anywhere near the ice.

But let's hope it doesn't come down to that and Forsberg is good to go.

Related Links
RMN Avalanche Playoff Report
Forsberg might play, Theodore simply must
Dear Quenneville, You must be kidding
I flu over the cuckoo's nest
Avs Forsberg, Hannan Probable for Game 3
Colorado not worried about being down to Wings (when has a team ever said "Yeah, we're scared shitless"???)
Let's get fired up

Monday, April 28, 2008

Jose Theodore to Start Game 3 for Avalanche

UPDATE: Another pasted blog comment below.

I said this earlier on A2Y and I'll just repeat it verbatim here as I don't have the time to formulate any more thoughts on the topic.

I think starting Theodore is going to blow up in JQ’s face. All it’s going to take is an early goal by the Wings to completely deflate the Avalanche.

If Budaj was in net and an early goal was scored, it’s easy to write off as jitters and push it out of your mind. With Theodore, his psyche and the team’s confidence in him seem to be at the point just before the straw breaks its back.

If Theodore does end up coming through and playing out of his mind - which he’ll need to for the Avs to win - JQ will look like a genius but I’ll still assume he just got lucky wink

It’s mildly ironic that most Avs fans pissed and moaned - myself included - when Q would swap goaltenders willy-nilly through his tenure with the Avalanche and now we’re pissing and moaning that he won’t do that. However it’s two completely different scenarios as there is no more margin for error.

I made this comment at ITCS where DD feels Theodore is the only logical choice. And since I'm lazy (actually in a meeting where I'm half paying attention) I'll do another paste job.

I don’t think starting Theodore is a terrible idea. But I do fear that one goal is all it will take to break this squad. With Budaj in, an automatic one-goal buffer is added to that breaking point.

That’s my main concern over starting Theodore. I could be overestimating the teams fragility but based on game 2, they didn’t appear to have anything left in the tank after goal number 3.

When it was announced Theodore was starting this game, I certainly wasn’t upset. I think either goaltender is a reasonable choice at this point but if Theodore is still feeling the effects of the flu, he simply should not be playing. And certainly should not have gone in the dressing room.

Manning up in this situation is completely different for a goaltender. A forward/defenceman can slack off a bit while on the ice but a goaltender cannot have any slack, especially against the Wings. When the flu takes you down, you can’t will your muscles to move that glove hand faster or push across the crease with more speed.

And it seemed pretty evident that this was the problem in game 1. His movements were sluggish, he was slow to react and his head didn’t appear to be in the game.

While I appreciate that Theodore is the #1 goaltender, there is no loyalty when it comes to winning. So I hope Q made this choice based on performance, not based on loyalty.

Related Links
Avs' Quenneville firm: Theodore will start
There is no goalie controversy
Avs seek balanced approach

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Red Wings Hammer Avalanche in Game 2

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Ouch. Double ouch. Triple ouch. Hell, it was a quadruple ouch. It was a virtual carbon copy of Thursday's game as Detroit shelled Jose Theodore for 4 goals and chased him from the net in a 5-1 win this afternoon.

The only difference is that this time, the 4 goals didn't all come in until midway through the second period and Theodore managed to stop 16 shots as opposed to 12. Everything else from the first 30 minutes Thursday carried forward for a full 60 minutes today. The Wings never let up on the gas and the Avalanche only managed a few solid shifts with sustained pressure and looked resigned to losing the game.

Goaltending controversy
Now we have a true goaltending controversy no matter what Quenneville says in the post-game press conference. Two games straight Jose Theodore has been nailed for 4 goals and yanked with Budaj stepping in and letting in only 1 goal on 40 shots.

The team could have helped out more but Theodore looked less-than-average on most of the goals and did not look like the dominating force from the Wild series.

Personally, I would go with Budaj. Sure, Theodore got the team this far but you can't play him just because you feel you owe him anything. You play the goaltender who looks like they can do something for you. And if Theodore plays on Tuesday and lets in the first goal, the team is going to be supremely demoralized.

Injuries abound
We all knew Peter Forsberg was going to be out. We all knew Wojetk Wolski was going to be out. We did not except Scott "Dave" Hannan to sit out. Remember when he took that puck to the inside of the boot last game? Well, I guess it stung more than he let on Thursday.

He really should have just kept his skate on so his foot didn't have a chance to swell and any broken bones would be held in place. It wouldn't be too awkward, right?

Oh, and the "Dave" nickname there? Well, ol' Doc informed us that Dave Hannan was not in the lineup tonight and it was a big blow to the Avalanche. Good job NBC crew. Milbury, McGuire and Emerick. The only redeeming part of that crew is Ed Olcyzk because he actually calls McGuire on some of the crap spewing from his mouth.

The Mule
Johan Franzen has become a media sensation to the point that I'm a bit sick of hearing how nobody has heard of him before. I guess since the "Blood Feud" has healed itself up there really isn't much else to talk about in the this series.

That's not to say that Franzen hasn't been worthy of the praise though. He had a hat trick tonight as he continues to be unstoppable in front of the net. Of course, he is stoppable but don't tell that to the Avalanche defence. It might hurt their feelings.

Defensive doldrums
Was it just me or did the defense look to be standing still today? I know the Wings have some speed but they're not filled with Gaborik's and Lombardi's. Adam Foote and Kurt Sauer were caught on multiple occasions softly leaning on players or getting cement feet as they tried to decide what to do.

On the Wings first goal, Foote was halfway between Franzen and Samuelson and couldn't seem to decide whether he wanted to block the shot or get position on Samuelson.

On Franzen's second goal, he circled around the net with Sauer chasing him, ended up with time and space and roofed it on Theodore. Now Franzen is certainly not fast so Sauer should have been able to keep up with him. And ideally, as soon as Franzen stepped around the corner he would have been plastered by Foote who was just standing in front of the net with nobody else around.

I won't even continue to expand on the gaffs those two made lest it look like I'm picking on them. But I will mention that the fourth goal by Henrik Zetterberg was Sauer's fault for a bad pinch.

Hlinka in the lineup
Jaroslav Hlinka drew in, spent some time on a line with Sakic and looked pretty much like a player who shouldn't be playing in this series.

Of course, that goes for a lot of Avalanche players at this point so I won't hold it against him.

There's no fighting in the playoffs
There usually isn't much fighting in the playoffs but tonight we finally had one. Once the score was at 4-0, Cody McCormick asked Darren McCarty if he wanted to go and the two hesitantly dropped gloves. McCormick swung some Wild punches, McCarty tried to bring the fight in close and the two ended up on the with McCormick on top. About as minor a victory as it gets but it's something.

McGuire's Monsters
Pierre McGuire can't get off the nuts of any coach who...oh I don't know...plays his best players as often as possible. Late in the season he was declaring Joel Quenneville a Jack Adams finalist - please - and slobbered all over him in a game on TSN because he did things like play Joe Sakic often. Or put out his #1 D pair against the opposing teams top line. I'm surprised he didn't commend him for having the appropriate amount of players on the bench.

He did the same thing today with Babcock as he praised him on any line change he made which involved putting Zetterberg or Datsyuk on the ice. Hell, if I was a coach I'd have them on as often as possible too.

And Pierre, we know the Avalanche don't have a big point shot. They haven't for a couple years now. It's a non-story so quit bringing it up even when the teams are playing at even strength, let alone on the powerplay.

Back to the Can
The teams have a two day layoff as they head back to Denver to get ready for game 3. I hope in those two days that the Avalanche can look deep into their minds and muster up some cajones.

Yes, the Red Wings are a talented team but they're not this much more talented than the Avalanche. I'm not sure what kind of mental block this team has against the Wings but it has grown more than old. It's older than the moldy leftovers in the back of my fridge that I fear touching lest I catch some bizarre superbug.

So wake the hell up Avalanche. Give us something to cheer about.

- Liles put in 23 minutes and looked half decent amongst his defensive bretheren
- Filpulla crunched Foote from behind in a nasty hit but both refs were apparently watching out for flying octopi and didn't make a call
- Brett Lebda was -1 for the day
- Lappy scored a goal but we didn't get a classic Lappy celebration as the game was 4-1 at the time

Related Links Event Summary Recap
Denver Post Recap
On the Wings Recap

Playoff Gameday: Avalanche vs Red Wings - Game 2

This is going to be a brief preview and then I'm going to jump on a soapbox so buckle up.

Lineup, injuries and game time
Peter Forsberg is questionable, Wojtek Wolski is out for the series, and Jose Theodore will likely start.

Jaroslav Hlinka should find himself in the lineup regardless if Forsberg is in or not. If Forsberg stays out, Q will likely keep McCormick in.

The game starts at 2:30pm ET and this is a game the Avalanche need to win. If they can split the series at Joe Lemon arena, they take home ice advantage in the series and get to come back home to a raucous Pepsi Center where we'll find out what real fans are made of.

True fans
I spent a good deal of time yesterday over at A2Y "conversing" with the Red Wings fans who frequent that site. Mostly because it was a cold, dreary Friday but I guess I also felt like killing a brain cell or two.

Anyways, through the course of the discussions I was accused of not being a "true fan" because I stated that I would continue to watch hockey even if the Avalanche were eliminated from contention. I wouldn't, as their fearful leader stated, go on sabbatical and refrain from even talking about hockey. You know, the sport that enables me to actually have a favorite team.

This set off one fellow who said I made him "sick to his stomach" and blah blah blah. He then went on how Wings fans have a genetic hatred for the Avalanche which, as Jib pointed out, makes no sense given the time frame for the Avalanche hockey team. That the true Wings fans were indoctrinated since birth. They came flying out the slide wearing a Wings jersey. They know what it means to follow the team through ups and downs and to suffer heartbreak at many first and second round defeats after winning the meaningless President's Trophy. Ok, I added that last one.

Well what do you think Avalanche fans right now are doing? After a season in which we all felt confident that the Stanley Cup was coming back home, our star-studded team ended up bowing out in the second round, putting an end to a chance at a third cup over nine seasons. We had to watch a rookie coach make endless mistakes including benching an "underachieving" star in Teem Selanne when it turns out he was injured all season.

Our team was then gutted after the lockout thanks to some ill advised low ball moves by our former GM. We lost Adam Foote, we lost Peter Forsberg, we lost Rob Blake, we had David Aebischer as our #1 as Patrick Roy had recently retired and the cupboards were bare in terms of goaltending prospects.

The team we love and cherish dearly struggled to make the postseason that first year back but managed to get our hopes up with a first round win over the Dallas Stars. They then got their asses handed to them by the Anaheim Ducks. Yes, the friggin' Walt Disney team sent them packing.

The next season they didn't even qualify for the show. With their fate out of their hands, they had to sit idly by and watch the Calgary Flames get in to the 8th slot by one lousy point. We were forced to watch the team that we love play a meaningless final 30 minutes in their last game all the while wondering "What happens next?"

Well you know what we all did next? We got up, dusted ourselves off and prepared for the next season. We didn't hang our heads, piss and moan like two-year-olds and swear off hockey. We begrudgingly followed along and started scouting out what changes the team should make. What they needed to do to bring us back what is rightfully ours. The Stanley fucking Cup.

Yes, I don't swear very often - on this blog anyways - but I must admit that being told Avalanche fans were not true fans really pissed me off. Sure, there may be some suits at Avalanche games who really should be drinking sherry and talking about the election instead of taking in a hockey game. But there are thousands upon thousands of true fans out there who care passionately about this team. Who want nothing but success and don't define failure as an option.

But if failure does come, we have the balls to learn from it, move on, and continue to cheer for a team that we have dedicated countless hours to whether it be watching, listening, reading, writing, commenting, cheering, booing or praying.

I follow along on Joe's open threads at Mile High Hockey when I have my laptop with me and can say without equivocation that the fans who spend there time there have more respect and class than Red Wings fans will ever hope to have. They also have more hockey knowledge, passion and caring than the immature "A2Y 19" could ever hope to achieve. The community that has sprouted up there is exactly what I expect from true fans. Cheers, heartbreak, a bit of name calling and an overall modicum of respectability.

I read all the Avalanche blogs that are out there and every one of them brings some amazing insights into each game. There is no need for any of us to degrade the opposing teams to show our passion. It's there in the hours of writing spent on the team every week. The ups and downs are expressed in the frustrations we all vent over things like Tyler Arnason only scoring against Edmonton or Karlis Skrastins trying to join the swim team with his spectacular ice stroke manoeuvre. And we do it all because we truly care for this team.

I'm proud to be an Avalanche fans and I'm proud of what our fanbase is, even if we have a few black sheep straying around. I'm proud that I can hold my head high on the heels of 2 Stanley Cups in the past 11 seasons. After a string of 11 straight playoff appearances. After 5 Conference Final appearances in 11 years. And finally, even while enduring a rough patch in the teams already storied history.

So Wings fans, feel free to poke fun at the team we cheer for - it's what you do in sports - but never question the loyalty of our true fan base.

Related Links
Game 2 Anticipation
MHH Open Thread
Colorado Avalanche Injury and Roster Updates Game Preview

Friday, April 25, 2008

Colorado Avalanche Injury and Roster Updates - April 25

I just finished watching the media conference with Joel Quenneville following Colorado's afternoon practice and it was a little comme ci, comme ça for me. A bit of good, a bit of bad and a bit of "You've got to be f'n kidding me."

Let's start with that last one and work our way up.

Wojtek Wolski out for series
Wojtek Wolski is "out indefinitely" and likely won't be back for the series. That is a huge blow for the Avalanche as Wolski forms part of the top trio and was playing very well in the playoffs.

He was in his groove and playing a solid puck possesion game while opening up lots of space for his linemates. He chalked up 2 goals and 3 assists in the 6 1/4 games he played so his production will certainly be missed.

Peter Forsberg day-to-day
Peter Forsberg is still listed as day-to-day and is questionable for the game tomorrow. I don't have to expand upon Forsberg's boost to this lineup other than to say the Avalanche are 12-3 with him in the lineup and 2-6-1 without him (since March 4th)

Lineup changes
If Forsberg comes back, obviously he'll take Wolski's spot in the lineup. If not, Q needs to draw on some reserve power.

Some folks were a bit surprised at putting in Cody McCormick rather than Jaroslav Hlinka. While I can appreciate that Q was likely doing it to inject some more grit, this was the wrong team to do it against. You need to ice a team with wheels and puck handling ability against the Wings and I think that even if Forsberg comes back, McCormick will be out and Hlinka in.

Q mentioned Scott Parker and Wyatt Smith as possible candidates, along with Hlinka. I hope he only tossed a few extra names around to make it sound like there were other reasonable options. Scott Parker is not a reasonable option. Wyatt Smith is not a reasonable option.

Hlinka needs to get inserted into the lineup, regardless of the team being stocked at center already.

Jose Theodore probable
Theodore practiced today and sounds probable for the game tomorrow. I guess the "flu" disappeared fast. And yes, I use "flu" in quotes because I find it a bit hard to believe he could look as weak as he did last night and be fine today.

But all the hockey players take Cold-FX, right? Or is that just Messier and Grapes?

I don't think there is any goaltending controversy as long as Theodore is 99% healthy. Peter Budaj did an admirable job stepping in last night and shutting it down but now is not the time to switch goaltenders.

It worked for Carolina in '06 but that was a different story. Gerber had faltered a couple games straight before Ward stepped in. Theodore faltered one game after an ill-advised attempt at playing through illness/injury.

No consolation in a close loss
Theodore being available was good news despite my sarcasm. The other piece of good news? Q finally grew a pair.

He said the team should not take any consolation from a close win last night and need to wipe that from their minds.

Damn straight. Game 1 is over. Nothing can be done about it now but to fight hard and make up for it in the next game. There are no second chances but there are new opportunities. Any other cliches to toss in there?

The Avalanche went on a pretty decent run when they lost some of their big guns in the regular season. The team seemed to play better and harder without the big guns to fall back on. As frustrating as that fallback mindset is, it's only natural to look to your leaders to pick up the slack.

And without Forsberg and Wolski, they'll be missing some big guns and need some new heroes to step up. Thankfully Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk appear to have awoken again with Ryan Smyth at their side.

Related Links
Avs-Wings: Goalies in limbo
Avs lost but...
Theodore doesn't regret trying to gut it out

Watch Colorado Avalanche Press Conference Online

In a further sign that the NHL is finally "getting it" with regard to new media, fans can catch the post-practice media conference with our very own Joel Quenneville live, online and in living color. It starts at 3:00pm EDT, 1:00pm MT (about 20 minutes away as of the time of this writing)

The post-game press conference last night was also aired live online and it looks like this will become a regular thing. They need to use a better method than their website to get that information out (ie. Twitter) but this is still a win.

The loss here is that they haven't archived anything in almost a week on the Avalanche TV section. So if you miss the live showing, you're screwed. One step forward, a half step back. But I'll still take it.

Related Links
Watch the Colorado Avalanche Press Conference Live

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Avalanche Play 30 Minutes, Lose to Red Wings

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
You cannot play 30 minutes against the Detroit Red Wings and expect to win the hockey game.

Unfortunately that's what Jose Theodore and the Colorado Avalanche tried to do tonight.

Strike first, strike un-often
Although the Avalanche got on the board first, it felt like it was only a matter of time before the Wings broke out. And break out they did. The Wings went on to score 4 straight goals as they chased Jose Theodore from the net.

The team was confused, disoriented and appeared shocked that they were involved in a hockey game. It was hard to watch and I found myself turning away from the tv, giving my head a little shake, turning back and hoping that things had changed.

Theodore takes his pads and goes home
Theodore ended up heading back to the hotel in street clothes and was reported as having the flu. I hope so because he did not look very good tonight. Sure, the Avalanche weren't helping at all but he just didn't seem to be in his groove at all.

Given that Tyler Weiman dressed as the backup for the third period, I would say it's legit that Theodore has the flu. Or a broken leg. Who knows in the playoffs.

Put the remote down and back away from the tv
After the fourth goal went in I had that brief moment that I'm sure all Avalanche fans had. My hand slowly went towards the remote control as my other hand cradled my head. My mind and body started an intense battle.

My thumb was itching to hit that glowing power button. My mind was telling me to hold on and see this one through. Or it was trying to punish me for all the brain cell killing I did as a youth. In the end, my brain won the day.

I kept the TV on and hoped that the team would wake up on the heels of the goaltending change.

Game lag
And wake up they did. Four minutes after Budaj came in, John-Michael Liles flew down the wing, took a feed from Cody McLeod and buried a shot past the short side on Osgood. The Avs were back in it!

At that point, I started to wonder if the Avalanche had a case of "game lag." It's similar to jet lag except a bit more annoying - for fans anyways. You see, all the previous Avalanche games started at 7:00 or 8:00 MT rather than 5:30 as today's game did. And when did the team wake up? Right around 7:00 MT.

They better cure that right quick as Saturday's game is at 1:00pm MT.

Rally picks up
The rally continued late in the second period. The Avalanche had finally been applying some pressure and making this look like a hockey game. But if they wanted any chance of getting back into it, they needed to get within one goal before the third period.

The newly reunited RPM line got it done. Breaking in on a 3-on-2, Ryan Smyth fed the puck up to Paul Stastny who displayed some excellent patience and fed Milan Hejduk who potted it over an outstretched Osgood's left pad.

Rally falls short
Unfortunately the rally didn't produce any goals in the third period. It did produce one heart wrenching *CLANK* off of the iron on a Milan Hejduk shot. Oh, if only that had been a few centimeters to the right, we might have been headed to overtime.

But the hockey gods don't take kindly to teams who don't play a full game so the Avalanche were denied the full comeback.

Lessons learned
Early on in this game, I had horrible visions of the 4-0 rout in the regular season. Would we be destined to sit idly by while the Avalanche played on their heels and were content simply trying to "stay close" and snag an OT point?

The Avalanche answered those fears with some solid play throughout the last half of the second and most of the third period.

The Avalanche defensive unit, with the exception of Liles and Leopold, are not the most mobile unit in the NHL. With that being said, they can still be effective by having proper positioning.

Letting Zetterberg sneak past you while trying to decide whether to block a shot - come on, Foote - is not proper positioning. Driving Datsyuk into the ice as he tries to break wide past you - thank you, Liles - is proper positioning.

In the end, the Avalanche put in a terrible 30 minutes followed by an above-average 30 minutes and lost by one goal.

The potential was there for a blowout but the team woke up, dug in and showed that they're going to make a series of it.

- the Avalanche scored first for the seventh straight time this playoffs
- Wojtek Wolski left the game with an injury after taking a hip check from Ruslan Salei (no, that isn't a typo)
- Nik Kronwall had a hate on for David Jones
- Tyler Arnason was a man on fire late in the third
- Datsyuk is a freakin' magician with the puck
- Budaj faced 2o shots and didn't give an inch
- but they should still come back with Theodore if he's healthy Saturday
- Cody McCormick drew in to the open forward slot
- Hejduk, Stastny and Smyth were +2, +2 and +1 with 2 points each
- Pierre McGuire wants to marry Mike Bacbock
- did the Wings find their anthem singer at the bottom of the discount porn barrel?
- throwing octopuses is a retarded tradition

Related Links Event Summary Recap
Jerseys and Hockey Love Recap
Denver Post Recap
RMN Recap
On the Wings Recap
Medical worries haunt Colorado
A sickening feeling in the Motor City
Wolski injured against Wings
Franzen's goal shows he's not foreign to success
The deal with the devil

Playoff Gameday: Avalanche @ Red Wings

UPDATE: Peter Forsberg is out. Ouch. I don't even have to expand on how much that hurts.

I'll just a do a quick link roundup for now. I haven't even read through everything let alone set aside time to write anything!

Avalanche Links
Denver Post Avalanche-Red Wings Matchup
Jose Theodore through the years
Good in goal, great goaltending runs (psst, Roy was a rookie in '86)
Goal standard for Avs goalie
Uphill battle for Avs
5 questions with Adam Foote
RMN Avalanche Report
Avalanche goalie adamant he shouldn't be likened to Patrick Roy

Red Wings Links
Wings-Colorado rivalry is back
Blood feud is getting a renewal
On the Wings Blog Series Preview
Oh, there will be blood (and maybe a hug from a lovable kitten?)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Semi-finals Series Preview: Avalanche vs Red Wings

The cover of Blood Feud, Adrian Dater's book on the Colorado Avalanche - Detroit Red Wings rivalry
Break out your copy of Tomb Raider, slip on the Doc Martens and crank up the Pearl Jam. That's right, it's retro time!

The Colorado Avalanche are set to face the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Semi-finals in the NHL playoffs. And predictably we've been subjected to many lame quips - such as the one above - due to the history between these two clubs.

And if you don't know the history, you might want to pick up Adrian Dater's book Blood Feud. And I'd also hope that you're a new fan to the game otherwise I'd ask what rock you've been under for the last few years.

History is just that...or is it?
However those days are long past and I much prefer to look to the future than to look to the past. I mean really, what does the series history between these teams mean to this series? Not a hell of a lot in my eyes.

Joe Sakic, however, begs to differ:
“I know the guys who were around for that time, we’re definitely excited. We can feel it. You know the buzz around the whole city is there,” said Sakic.
There are 12 players - 4 for the Avalanche and 8 for the Red Wings - still with a bittersweet taste left in their mouths from the rivalry. Well, Draper certainly still has the taste of something in his mouth still.

So it is entirely possible that the previous feud will ignite a passion in some of the older players that may not have been there if the Avalanche had ended up facing the Sharks and the Wings had to duke it out with the Stars.

Regular season routing
During the regular season, the Red Wings put a beating on the Lake Erie Monsters. The Wings shut them out on three separate occasions and also posted a 4-2 win late in December.

Avalanche fans can take solace in the fact that the squads iced by the Avalanche during those games were far different than the current squad.

Adam Foote, Ruslan Salei and Peter Forsberg were obviously not in an Avalanche uniform for those games, Joe Sakic has not played a game against the Red Wings this season, Paul Stastny and Ryan Smyth have only been in the lineup twice and Karlis Skrastins was in the lineup for all 4 games.

That's a pretty significant boost. The team is stronger, tougher and more experienced than they were a couple months ago.

But how do they match up against a strong Red Wings team?

Offensive Output
The Avalanche need to fend off the first wave from Datsyuk and Zetterberg while keeping an eye out for the second wave from Hudler and Franzen.

Combine that with Lidstrom and Rafalski on the back end - and Tomas Holmstrom's back end - and there is plenty of offensive firepower to keep an eye on.

On the flip side, Osgood will need to be wary of crash-and-bang players like Ben Guite, David Jones and Ryan Smyth.

Jordan Leopold and Ruslan Salei have stepped up on the back end for the Avalanche and have provided some much needed points from the point.

Defensive destruction
Deadline day acquisitions Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei have been dynamite for the Avalanche. Foote shut down Gaborik and anchored down a shaky defensive squad. Ruslan Salei plays on the PP and PK and has stepped it up physically. I don't think I could ask for more from either of those players.

Scott Hannan has become invisible which is exactly the way I like him. If I'm not noticing him that much, then he's not making mistakes. I invariably expect a defenceman to do his job so when he does, I tend not to make mention of it.

Frankly it's because I spent so much time being defensively responsible during my hockey playing days that I simply expect it. If I could do it, I think an NHLer should be able to do it.

The Red Wings squad is led by Nik Lidstrom, supported by Brian Rafalski

Goaltending gonads
Yes, I used the word gonads. Mainly because I drew a blank while trying to think of a "G" word to go with goaltending.

Jose Theodore was brilliant down the stretch and turned it up a notch in the playoffs, as he has done in the past.

At the other end, Chris Osgood has taken over the reigns after Hasek let in one too many long shots for coach Mike Babcock's lightning.

So you've got a resurging young goaltender battling it out with a resurging veteran. Can youth trump experience? I like to think so.

And make no bones about it, if the Avalanche are to win this series, they are going to require Jose Theodore to be no less than bloody brilliant in every game.

Coaching quarrel
Mike Babcock is an excellent coach. Joel Quenneville has been an above average coach thus far in the playoffs.

If Q wants to outcoach Babcock, he's got to stay simple. Don't screw with the lines after a loss and have your players know their roles.

During the Minnesota series, as soon as Gaborik set foot on the ice, Foote was already up and ready to hop over the boards without being told.

Having your players think on their feet certainly keeps the game interesting, but if they can settle into a routine, that helps them concentrate on their matchup much more effectively.

Oh, and don't pull a Keenan and yank Theodore while down 4-2 in a game 7. Just don't.

Stats breakdown
This will be quick and dirty as stats aren't my forte.

Team GP W L OT P P% G/G GA/G 5-5 F/A PP% PK% S/G SA/G
DET 6 4 2
0 0 .667 2.83 2.00 1.22 11.5 91.3 40.3 24.0
COL 6 4 2
0 0 .667 2.83 2.00 1.29 20.0 85.7 30.2 33.3

So after one round of playoff action, the basic stats are a draw for these two teams. The special teams game and shots for/against per game show something to keep an eye on.

The Wings are firing off 40 shots per game and the Avalanche are allowing 33. I don't expect the Wings to be able to get off 40 per game against the Avalanche like they did with Nashville but even 30-35 shots from this team is a lot of rubber for Theodore to be handling every night.

And in a shocking turn of events, the Avalanche powerplay is nearly doubling the output of the Red Wings powerplay. That will even out a bit as the series wears on. You can see that the Wings are killing penalties with over 90% efficiency so don't expect a 20% effective Avalanche powerplay.

With Tomas Holmstrom in one crease and Ryan Smyth in the other, it should be an interesting special teams battle. Hopefully the ride the Avalanche's PP squad is on won't end any time soon.

Final words
I don't do series predictions but if I had to go with my gut, I would say Wings in 6. If I go with my heart, I would say Avs in 5. You know, one token win so Wings fans don't feel too bad.

Now go ahead and prove me wrong, Avalanche.

Final final words
To good not to put up, I came across this image on Google Image search. The site shown in the image hasn't been updated in a while but nonetheless:

Related Links
Avs Blogger Previews Rounded up by Tapeleg Series Preview
Denver Post Series Preview
TSN Series Preview Series Preview
The Hockey News Series Preview Practice Report
Full Semi-Final Schedule

Rival Blogs
On the Wings Blog
Japer's Detroit blog roll

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Avalanche to Renew Rivalry with Red Wings

Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche fights with Mike Vernon of the Detroit Red Wings
The San Jose Sharks polished off the Calgary Flames setting the stage for the Western Conference Semi-Finals.

Detroit (1) vs Colorado (6)
San Jose (2) vs Dallas (5)

I'll follow up with a series preview later in the week.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Avalanche Knock Out Wild in Game Six

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
The 6th-seeded Colorado Avalanche took down the 3rd-seeded Minnesota Wild with a 2-1 win tonight at a lively Pepsi Center to advance to the Western Conference Semi-Finals.

In a game that often had me standing in anticipation, Jose Theodore was excellent, the Colorado defense was solid and the game plan was well executed.

After scoring the first goal - again - the Avalanche continued to pressure the Wild in a furious back-and-forth battle. The Wild tied it just 34 seconds into the second period but that did nothing to deflate the team.

The Avalanche kept pushing - and being pushed - and were rewarded at the 12:20 mark as David Jones drew two defensemen to him behind the net. He then fed a wide open Ryan Smyth - the backup MVP of this series - who made no mistake potting it up high on Backstrom.

The Avalanche didn't sit back on the lead until the final 5 minutes. They kept playing their game and awaited the inevitable final onslaught from the Wild.

With about 6 minutes left to play, the Wild started turning up the juice. The only problem is that they didn't have any left.

At one point the cameras caught Kim Johnsson behind the net waving a player towards him as he gasped for breath with his mouth dangling open and shoulders slumped.

They also turned over the puck more in the final minutes than they did the entire series. Cross-ice passes were being broken up, Avalanche pressure led to weak chip-ins and the entire squad looked absolutely spent.

Backstrom was pulled with about a minute left but the Wild still couldn't manage a whole lot of dangerous chances.

Joe Sakic made some key plays including a huge defensive zone faceoff win with 30 seconds to go as well as blocking a pass from behind that net that could have been dangerous. And he did it all with a sense of eerie calmness on his face. Maybe he's done this before.

When the final buzzer sounded Jose Theodore jumped for joy, Ryan Smyth pumped his fist and somewhere far away, an angel got their wings.

Jose Theodore stands tall
Once again, Jose Theodore was the star of the game. It wasn't a game stealing performance like game 5 but 1 goal on 35 shots equates to a rock solid performance no matter the outcome.

The pucks were sticking to him like glue and he also had lady luck on his side. There were two noticeable instances where he didn't even see the puck until it hit him - once on the glove, once into the pads - but you've got to be good to be lucky and man was he good.

I think the Avalanche players are actually getting tired of being asked about Theodore's performance. Ryan Smyth and Peter Forsberg were interviewed after the game and both got the "How well is Jose Theodore playing right now?" question. If I had got that question, I would have simply answered "Well, did you watch the game?"

As it was Smyth and Forsberg pulled out the typical hockey answer and went on their way, rolling their eyes as soon as their backs were turned I'm sure.

Schultz returns
Nick Schultz made his return to the lineup tonight and Jacques Lemaire was more than happy to scratch Sean Hill. The Wild defense desperately needed help with 3 of their players spending five or more minutes per game out on the ice while Hill had been playing under 10 minutes per game.

Unfortunately when you return from an appendectomy after missing 2 weeks of action, you're not going to be terribly effective.

Gaborik sneaks one through
Marian Gaborik finally managed to get on the scoreboard with an assist on the Wild goal.

Unfortunately for Marian, Adam Foote then doubled the pressure he put on the Wild star and he was not a threat for the rest of the game.

Guite grinds one out
Ben Guite has been a cult hero in the Avalanche blogger circle for some time now and he showed why tonight. During the Wilds first - and only - penalty kill, Joe Sakic took advantage of a Wild turnover and sprung Guite on a breakaway.

Guite flew in, head up, stick aimed for the top corner and then...he fanned on the shot. Fortunately it still had enough juice to squeeze past a surprised Nik Backstrom. That was Guite's first playoff point.

In a travesty of stats keeping, Ben Guite was not credited with only one hit but he was finishing checks and causing turnovers with his physical play.

This was especially true in the final minutes when Guite set the tone by plastering a Wild player along the boards to wrest the puck away from him and chip it out of the zone.

David Jones achieves cult status
Ladies and gentleman, meet our new cult hero: David Jones. Guite can no longer count as many mainstream announcers such as Kelly Hrudey and Pierre McGuire have expounded on Guite's abilities. So Jones it is.

Jones had only 10 minutes of icetime but managed to get a beauty assist on the winning goal and spent a lot of time rushing the net and making life difficult for the Wild defencemen and Nik Backstrom.

Jones appears to have no fear of charging down the wing and cutting hard to the net. You know you're lucky going to get dumped by an opposing defenseman when you do that but the payoffs can be great.

And in what works out as a nice hand off from Guite, the assist was Jones' first playoff point.

Sakic solid
Oh Joe Sakic, I love how you make me eat my words. The last couple game recaps, I mentioned that Joe was looking a step slow and wasn't a force like in previous years.

After setting up the first goal and netting his 100th playoff assist, he spent the rest of his 18 minutes making solid defensive plays, winning 62% of his draws and making crucial contributions in the defensive during the final 30 minutes.

Give me a bit of credit though. The CBC announcers - who actually watch hockey, not just call the games - mentioned that Joe isn't quite the Joe of old. But he appears to have a lot of juice left in the tank.

Still mancrushing on Salei
Ruslan Salei continues to be a genius pickup by Francois Giguere. Salei played on the powerplay and penalty kill, put in 20 solid minutes, was +1, fired off 3 shots, put up 4 hits and blocked 4 shots.

Those are some quality stats for a player who only cost the team Karlis Skrastins and a 3rd-rounder.

Game 6 chokers
I'm not going to call Dater crazy or a fool for thinking the series was heading back to Minnesota and that the Avalanche would eventually lose the series. He made his choice and stuck to his guns.

Who could have seen that Theodore was going to become a Conn Smythe candidate or that Foote would make Marian Gaborik a non-factor all series long?

However by focusing on the Avalanche's history of choking in game 6, he lost sight of the following stat which was in the Avalanche game recap:
The 2008 Western Conference Quarterfinals marked the 13th time Colorado has held a 3-2 series lead after five games since moving to Denver. After tonight’s win, the Avs have now advanced in nine of those 13 series. Colorado’s appearance in the Western Conference Semifinals also marks the ninth time in 11 postseason trips since 1996 that the club has advanced beyond the first round.

But if the Wild had won - and they very well could have - we'd all be singing a different tune and Dater would look like a genius.

That's just the way it goes when you make bold predictions on sporting events.

Next up
The Avalanche are the first team to close out a series in the West so the playing landscape is still very much up in the air. They could face anyone from the #1 seeded Red Wings to the #7 seeded Flames.

I think the most likely outcome is a date against the Red Wings. Detroit should finish off the Predators, Dallas will take out Anaheim (who saw that coming?) and the Sharks should be able to finish off the Flames now that they've woken up.

If the Flames do come back and take down San Jose, they would then face the Wings and the Avalanche would face their old friend Marty Turco.

Related Links Event Summary
Colorado Game Recap
Denver Post Game Recap
RMN Game Recap
Theodore thankful Avs, Hacket kept faith in him
Big name players come up big for the Avs
Forsberg proving to be a bargain
In the Cheap Seats Game Recap
Tapeleg reappers!
Dater eats some crow
Jibble's first round Avs awards
Mike Russo sounds off

Game 6 Preview: Avalanche vs Wild

(Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)
Closing time, open all the doors and let you out into the world, closing time turn all of the lights up... Yes, I'll admit I still have that song stuck in my head after all these years. Thankfully it means at least a little something today.

The Avalanche are back home after stealing a win in Minnesota and have a chance to close out the series on home ice.

It's a chance they won't take lightly.

As soon as the final horn sounded on Thursday, the Avalanche players were looking ahead to game 6. There was no laughter or high-fives over what transpired. No time to reflect on why they were dominated so badly. It was time to start focusing on the next game.
"They're a great team, so I'm going to have to be ready for the next one," Theodore said afterward. "They're going to come as hard, I'm sure, because they're just a hard-working team. We're going to have to be ready as a team."
For a goaltender who single-handedly held his team in the game long enough for them to score three goals against the supreme defense and goaltending of the Wild - yes, that was a dig - he certainly doesn't appear to have a swelled head going into the next game.

And how about the Avalanche's ineffective, $6+M cap-space wasting captain? No wait, that's the Vancouver Canucks. The Avalanche's captain continues to lead this team in the dressing room even if he isn't a force on the ice at the moment.
"We're up 3-2," he said Friday. "You have a chance to close it out. Any time you have a chance, you want to try and do it. You don't really want to go back to Minnesota and their own crowd for Game 7. You have an opportunity; you have to find a way to get it done."
Damn straight. When you have an opportunity, strong people will dig down and find a way to get it down.

I still feel that the Colorado Avalanche have more of those strong people than the Minnesota Wild do.

Related Links
Avs can't afford to drag feet at home
RMN Avalanche Report
So far goons not a factor

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Avalanche Take 3-2 Series Lead

(AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)
The Jose Theodore's put in a great performance tonight and walked out of St. Paul with a 3-2 win and a 3-2 series lead.

After last night's performance, there is a mandatory 2-game reprieve before complaining that Theodore gets paid too much and doesn't steal enough games.

With a 38-save effort last night, you might as well start calling him Billy the Kid. Did Billy the Kid steal things? I know he was an outlaw and I assume outlaws steal things.

Anyways, if he keeps performing like this for the rest of the playoffs, it's a pretty safe bet that the Avalanche will try to re-sign him over the summer. But please, nothing crazy.

Overlapping double-headers saved my life
I was off at a fundraising event, one which actually had good food, so I had the ol' PVR set to tape the game. I expected to miss most of the first period due to the overlap with the Caps-Flyers game. What I did not expect was for that game to go into double-OT causing me to miss about 40 minutes of action.

From the sounds of it, the Jose Theodore show may have given me a stroke from too much excitement and fear so I'm not too broken up about it. But still, it's really annoying NHL so get your heads out of your butts and fix your scheduling.

Fast start staved off
The Wild came out guns blazing and fired off 32 shots in those first two periods. Theodore turned aside the first 16, then got beat on a cross-ice, no-chance play, then turned on the afterburners and shut the Wild down the rest of the way.

Take the old with the new
The Avalanche, after having Andrew Brunette open the scoring for the third straight game, got key contributions from a couple youngsters late in the third.

Wojtek Wolski buried his second of the playoffs off of a nice feed from John-Michael Liles. Then only 1:19 later, Paul Stastny found himself the recipient of some pretty passing from Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk. Stastny then pivoted to his backhand and fired it over a sprawling Nik Backstrom.

The biggest I've ever seen
Theodore called that goal "the biggest of the playoffs" and I can't say I disagree. "Why?", you might ask. Well, with just 3 seconds remaining in the game, Brian Rolston's mission to shoot, shoot, shoot and shoot some more finally paid off.

Right off the faceoff Rolston found the puck heading towards his stick so he wound up and blasted it through Theodore's legs. After putting up 7 shots alone, you almost felt like Rolston deserved to get something for his efforts. Almost.

Powered up powerplay
The Avalanche were 2-for-3 on the powerplay tonight and that was definitely a key difference. The Wild had the same amount of chances with a bit more time but could only solve Theodore the one time.

Hopefully this is a turning point for the powerplay but given its inconsistencies all season, I'm not holding my breath. And really, holding your breath is a bad idea in general.

Boogeyman, Lappy and the Wild fans
No, Lappy didn't drop the gloves with the "Boogeyman" tonight. However he did collide with him hard and ended up taking the less-good end of it. The good news is that Lappy got up and was fine. Even better news was that he managed to knock Boogard off his feet at least.

The bad news? The Wild fans actually booed when Laperriere got up after being down and attended to by the trainers. Jib said it best when noting that as much as he - and all of us - hate Dion Phaneuf, I don't know of anyone who would cheer him actually being injured and boo when he appeared to be fine.

I don't want to pigeonhole an entire state since, again as Jib pointed out, the Wild bloggers are a classy group but that was just a shameful display by Wild fans.

Game five statistics
No, I'm not going to break down some of the in-game stats today. I have to be getting to work so I can leave a bit earlier than usual to enjoy this glorious day. However, in case anybody did not hear during the broadcast - and it was repeated about 1,000 times on TSN - the winner of game 5 in a tied series has gone on to win the series 80% of the time.

The Wild might as well hand over the series. Heck, Gary might as well just hand the Avalanche the Cup, right? Right?

Next game
The game time for game 6 has been announced. It will be Saturday at 10:00pm EDT, 8:00pm MT. The game will be national on CBC in Canada and Versus in the States. CBC has game 6 of the Montreal-Boston series before this one but there is a 3-hour gap which should be enough to let us Canadians watch the whole game. You Americans get off lucky as Versus isn't covering the Habs-Bruins game.

Game highlights

Related Links Event Summary Recap
In the Cheap Seats Recap
Theodore's effort nets series lead
Theodore steals show, win for Avs
Theodore was astonishing, mythical (whoa, hyperbole much?)
Do good things...
Wolski has grown up

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wild Cry Like Little Bitches

Usually I don't do "provocative" pieces. I like to watch the game, cheer my team on, get disgusted when the other team acts like a bunch of schoolgirls and keep a sense of fairness and calmness in my commentary.

But after reading a few articles from Minnesota media this morning, I couldn't help but get a bit agitated.

That entire team is crying like a bunch of little babies who had their soothers taken away from them.

In a StarTribune article, Derek Boogaard accused Cody McLeod of not playing with respect. Well, granted McLeod had issues earlier this year - and all the Avs bloggers condemned it - but he's been nothing more than a pest this series. And an effective pest apparently.

Said Boogaard:
"I'm going to laugh when the instigator [penalty] is out this summer because I'm pretty sure [McLeod's] ... going to be a lot more quiet next year," Boogaard said. "[The way he plays] is not hockey. That's not the way it's supposed to be played. It's supposed to be played with respect. He doesn't show respect."
First, the instigator penalty is going nowhere. Second, what did he do last night that could be considered disrespectful? I'll admit I was concerned that McLeod would do something stupid but he did nothing of the sort. Unless you consider getting mugged by Veilleux and Belanger as disrespectful.

Boogaard also commented on the lack of people willing to step up and fight the giant baby:
"They have guys on their team whose job is to open their mouths and try to get us to take penalties on them, and I mean, it's just not going to happen,"
Did he seriously say "It's not going to happen" after he alone took 24 minutes in penalties? Yeah, sure didn't work out in the Avs favor you big buffoon.

And when accused of being goons, the Wild's choir boy Chris Simon said:
"I think we're playing hard, we're playing fair and so is the other team," said bruiser Chris Simon.
Maybe you played fair because Colin Campbell has you under house arrest and if you so much as look at someone the wrong way, you'll be gone for good. As for the rest of your team, they did not play fair. They did not play hard. And they did not show any respect.

Look, the end result is that you guys got your asses handed to you and it likely won't happen again.

So there's no point getting your panties in such a twist.

Related Links
StarTribune Recap

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Avalanche Even Series Against Wild

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Colorado Avalanche were sick of overtime and last night they put an end to it. Barely 6 minutes into the game the Avalanche were up 2-0 and they kept going from there.

By the time the smoke cleared, the score was 5-1 and the Wild were beaten down, frustrated and tired. We all knew that at some point the Wild were going to get tired.

It was mostly expected from their defense where players like Martin Skoula have been putting in 30 minutes a game. That's unsustainable for players of that calibre and it showed last night.

Jacques Lemaire called out Martin Skoula specifically saying "He probably played his worst game for the last three months."

First Period
The first period started off and one of the first things out of my mouth was "He's got Wolski playing with Guite? WTF?" And then shortly after that it was "And McLeod is with Arnason and Jones? WTF x 2"

Yes, Joel Quenneville decided to do some line juggling. Ryan Smyth has been playing well all series but was banished to a line with Tyler "Inconsistent" Arnason. To fix that, Q reunited the RPM line and moved Forsberg up to the first line with Sakic and Brunette.

And wouldn't you know it, the new #1 line helped the Avalanche get on the board early. Jordan Leopold fed Ruslan Salei who wound up and blasted one from the point. On its way to the net, Andrew Brunette got a stick on it and tipped it up and over Nik Backstrom for the early lead.

Then just a minute and a half later, Wojtek Wolski found himself unmolested - isn't that the best way to be found? - in the slot with an errant puck headed his way. He grabbed it, called his family and said "Watch this guys!" and buried it past Backstrom. Then after the goal I think he mouthed the letter F, U and Q. Not sure what that means...

Then just five minutes later, Tyler Arnason found himself alone at the blueline as a stray puck made it onto his stick. He took a couple steps and absolutely wired the puck past Nik Backstrom

Wow. So the new #1 line, the new #4 line and Tyler Arnason all stepped up early in the game.

Second Period
The Wild started a penalty box parade early in the second as Brian Rolston went off for interference. The Avs couldn't convert but the PP looked half decent.

Then at the 7:42 mark and with Todd Fedoruk in the box, the Avalanche started making this one a rout. Jordan Leopold made a nifty play at the line to keep the puck alive, fed it to Tyler Arnason who then dropped it to Ruslan Salei and BOOM!, it was 4-0. Ruslan? If you're reading this...I love you.

Things got a little rough after that as Minnesota started losing their composure.

Derek Boogard got his first of two 10-minute misconducts after Stephan Veilleux took a hooking call and Boogard decided it would be wise to fire the puck down the ice after the whistle. And then for good measure, he decided to give David Jones a shot in the shoulder on his way by. Smart moves, Boogeyman.

The Avs failed to convert on the powerplay - which was a recurring theme - but it wouldn't be the last chance they got.

Just a couple minutes after getting out of the box, Veilleux decided to cross-check Cody Mcleod and then rough him up after he was down. And Eric Belanger decided to sucker punch John-Michael Liles as well. You know, for funsies.

Thanks to Veilleux's two minor penalties, the Avalanche were able to go up 5-0. Milan Hejduk found himself at the side of the net with the puck after Ryan Smyth drove the net hard. And unfortunately for Nik Backstrom, he was at the wrong side of the net. No chance for Backstrom and the wheels officially came off for the Wild train.

The period finally played out with no more festivities. Well, unless you count the end of the period where Foote went up to Burns and gave him a bit of a talking to. Burns responded with some shoving and both ended up with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

Third Period
The Avalanche headed into the third period with a 5-0 lead and admittedly, I was mildly nervous. Since the Avalanche have given up all their goals in this series during the third period and overtime you'll have to forgive me.

But after giving up an early goal, the Avalanche held the Wild off the scoresheet the rest of the way.

And that peeved the Wild off to no end. After taking 26 minutes in penalty in the second period, the Wild decided to go for the record, amassing 69 minutes in penalties in the third period.

I'm not even going to break down all the penalties lest you be reading this long into the night but I will make special note of Veilleux's gutless boarding on Paul Stastny. Great job, buddy. Certainly did your team proud.

Suffice to say that Laperriere and Veilleux dropped the gloves in a boring fight, Boogard got another misconduct, Veilleux got a few more minutes and the Avalanche powerplay failed to convert on any of those.

Penalty parade
The Wild ended the night with 101 penalty minutes including 18 minors, one fighting major and 6 misconducts.

Stephan Veilleux had 25 minutes with 5 minors, a fighting major and a 10-minute misconduct, Derek Boogard had 2 minors and 2 misconducts and both Aaron Voros and Kim Johnsson had a minor and misconduct. Brian Rolston also found himself in the box 4 separate times including a misconduct.

All I can say to that is "You stay classy, Minnesota."

Veteran leadership
The differences in leadership between the Wild and Avalanche was very evident last night. When the Wild started losing it, the Avalanche kept their cool, rarely retaliated and made the Wild look a bit ridiculous.

The Wild, on the other hand, took every opportunity to start scrums after the whistles, hack at anything that moved and generally look like a group of babies.

Maybe they didn't get enough sleep Monday night?

Lineup change
Along with the line changes Q made, he also made a lineup change. During the pre-game press conference Quenneville stated that Leopold was a "strong possibility" and had a little smirk while he said it.

And sure enough, Leopold was in and Finger was out.

Leopold ended the night with 2 assists, was a +2 and played 22 minutes. Wow, that's a lot of 2's there. He also had 4 hits and a pretty good night overall.

- yep, the notes are back
- Keith Carney acted like both an ass and a pussy last night after diving on a Tyler Arnason elbow and then beaking off and shoving Avs players after every whistle
- the VS announcers could not get any players names right last night
- Todd Fedoruk dove on Adam Foote's first period "hook"
- on an icing play, Hannan had the line but Liles took the cross-ice route and beat him to the puck
- halfway you could see Hannan go "oh screw it, you're faster than me"
- when Lappy really gets his jets going, he looks a bit like a kid who just learned how to skate (no offense)
- I still like Brent Burns' style
- Smyth continues to impress with his grit and passion
- Tyler Arnason will now fade into the annals of time after breaking out for 2 points
- my better half wondered "Why are they being such dicks?" midway through the third

Related Links Event Summary Recap
In the Cheap Seats Recap
MHH Recap
TSN Recap
Denver Post Recap
RMN Avalanche Report
Avs have plenty of fight
Stastny needs to find another level
Despite insanity, Avs remain focused

Game 4 Preview: Avalanche vs Wild

I'm finally in the "must-win" phase. If the Avalanche lose tonight, this series is all but over. With 2 of the possible 3 remaining games being housed in the raucous Xcel Energy Center, the Avalanche can't afford to be down 3-1.

Pre-game press conference
In a shocking turn of events, the pre-game press conference is up on and the game hasn't even started yet! Who knew that was possible.

In the press conference, Quenneville was grilled about the powerplay, Paul Stastny, Jose Theodore and Jordan Leopold.

Powerplay futility
Quenneville feels that the powerplay being ineffective last night was an issue of having trouble getting set in the zone.

Getting past Minnesota in the neutral zone is an issue not just on the powerplay but at even strength. I think the main issue was trying to be too cute with their plays and working the down low cycle.

The blueliners are getting more shots off which is great but you have to clog that net and not give Backstrom a clean look at it.

Leopold in?
Jordan Leopold is considered a "strong option" tonight. So that could mean Jeff Finger will get a taste of action in the press box. Finger looked a bit lost last night and is, of course, the easy scapegoat for the winning goal.

Forsberg likely to play
Peter Forsberg is considered likely to play tonight. Hopefully he does and hopefully be plays better than he did last night.

Related Links Avalanche Team Console From the locker room: Game 4

Wild Take 2-1 Series Lead Over Avalanche

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Three games. Three Overtime periods. Three 3-2 results.

The Minnesota Wild got their second straight 3-2 OT win over the Colorado Avalanche last night to take a 2-1 series lead and regain home ice advantage.

The Avalanche now have to win tonight so they can head into Minnesota with a fighting chance to extend this series.

This game was the complete opposite of the previous two games. Both teams came out looking tentative, unenergetic and completely lacking of physicality. After the previous two games, I actually found myself about to chant "Boring" at the television screen.

First period
Once again the Avalanche got on the board first. Wojtek Wolski broke down the wing, pulled up short and fed a streaking Sakic. The puck was a bit behind Sakic but he managed to quickly get it in position to take a shot off. Nik Backstrom stopped it easily but he fed the puck straight to Andrew Brunette who had all day to bury it.

That goal brought some life to the Can and things were looking good. If the Wild didn't want to play a defensive game, the Avalanche could continue to stretch out their trap and get some quality chances.

Second Period
In the second period, the Wild had a goal disallowed after Aaron Voros completely bowled over Jose Theodore on his way to the net. The refs immediately waved it off but the guys at CBC were so confused they actually started complaining that it was a bad goal. Voros was in the box and the puck was being dropped in the Avs zone before they finally realized the refs had waved it off. I guess the ref waving his arms and pointing to the penalty box just wasn't enough for them.

Third period
Unfortunately in the third period, the Avalanche pulled their usual work. They gave up a goal midway through after Mikko Koivu found himself unmolested in front of the net. Kurt Sauer and Adam Foote had both gone fishing for the puck in the corner, forgetting that only one of them needed to do that.

Then, while the Avalanche were on a powerplay, Joe Sakic made a terrible pinch leading to a 2-on-1 and the Wild made no mistake. As soon as I saw Sakic take a step towards the puck my heart sank a little bit. That one was so easy to see coming that I don't really know what Sakic was thinking.

However leave it to Joe to make up for it. Barely 3 minutes later, Sakic found a loose puck and backhanded it past a prone Nik Backstrom to tie the game. The Can was alive and we were headed to overtime.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that this game only made it to overtime thanks to Andrew Brunette. With only seconds left on the clock, Brunette dove to break up a pass that surely would have led to a Wild goal. The Wild had been buzzing, passing the puck around with ease in the Avalanche zone and Jose Theodore was down and out after trying to follow the puck for what must have felt like an eternity.

Both teams traded chances with the Wild having an edge in energy it seemed. And sure enough, the game was ended after an Avalanche mistake. Jeff Finger went down to touch up for an icing except he decided to go around the left side of the net while Brian Rolston was heading straight down the right side. The puck then bounced off the boards, off the net and right to Rolston. He fed Pierre-Marc Bouchard who rifled a beauty shot home to end the night.

Now, granted that nobody really expected the puck to bounce like it did there, but Finger should never have gone around the opposite side of the net with Rolston so close on his tail. It's just asking for trouble to leave so much space between yourself and the opponent deep in your own zone, no matter what the situation may be.

Stretch it out
The Avalanche started off this game and were breaking the Wild's 5-man back system by running stretch passes up the middle. Then about halfway through the game they inexplicably started trying to dipsy-doodle through the neutral zone to get the puck to the red line and shoot it in.

I'm really not sure why the change of strategy. Heck, Kelly Hrudey spent 5 minutes talking about how effective the Avalanche had been with the stretch pass and chip-in move. For them to abandon it really makes no sense. The best way to break a trap is to keep the puck moving quickly through the neutral zone, not trying to stickhandle past 5 players.

Sakic slumping?
I know Joe is putting up the points in this series and of course had the huge game winner in game 1 but...something feels off. He's making some odd decisions and looking a bit slow lately. His shot has fallen off again to where it's rolling off the heel of his stick and he just doesn't feel like a threat.

Stastny stuttering
Paul Stastny needs to pick up his play quick, fast and in a hurry. He's been virtually invisible (0pts, -3) this series and looks to be very tentative. For a young player who has always seemed so composed, it really seems like the playoffs are weighing on him.

He needs to wake up and help lead his line which includes Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk because that line is falling apart.

The Avalanche strategy of "Give Forsberg the puck and something will happen" has been easily picked up on by Minnesota so they're draped all over Forsberg. And Milan Hejduk isn't helping by skating around the perimeter and never doing anything useful with the puck.

Stastny needs to tie that line together and he needs to start tonight.

Power play
I think Jibble_cribbits might have jinxed the powerplay yesterday when he wrote an article on the Avalanche powerplay improving. Last night they were 0-for-6 and looked brutal. Overpassing, not keeping the puck in at the line and not showing any desperation.

Rolston shooting it up
Brian Rolston's strategy this series is easy to sum up. "Shoot the puck." No matter where or when this guy gets the puck, he winds up for a big slapper.

I know the old adage of "Shoot the puck and good things happen" but this is getting to be a bit ridiculous.

And of course tonight he's going to score on some weirdly redirected goal after taking a shot from an impossible angle. Sorry for the jinx guys but I just had to say it.

Wrap up
I do have more to say about this game but I've got to head in to work at some point. For some quick notes: Smyth is still being Smyth, Finger needs to smarten up and Tyler Arnason needs to hit get engaged in this series.

Good enough
One last thing to add actually. While linking to Dater's recent blog entry, I decided to give it a read first. You know, I don't want to link to it if it's not a good piece...heh, kidding. Down at the end he made a point I've been bitching about for a while now.

He was bemoaning the Avalanche's style of play where "they overpass and don’t finish that extra check and, well, just think what they’ve already done will be enough to win."

Just enough to get by. Where have we heard that before? Oh right, that's been a motivating theme from the coaching staff all year.

Game time
The series continues tonight at 10:00pm EDT, 8:00pm MT and the Avalanche better come to play. If they don't win this game, they'll have a tall order ahead of them if they want to make it to round 2.

Hopefully Burns and Johnsson are worn out after playing 30+ minutes last night.

Related Links Event Summary
Denver Post Game Recap
Theodore solid in losing effort
Finger or Leopold?
Brunette's magic isn't enough
Foote's defensive feat isn't enough
Wild's Backstrom a saving grace